The Bouchayers of Grenoble and French Industrial Enterprise, 1850-1970

Overview

The son of a village nail maker, Joseph Bouchayer forged a new identity in Grenoble and left as his legacy a thriving metalworking firm--Bouchayer et Viallet. His sons made this enterprise the dominant French producer of pipelines for the hydroelectric industry before 1914. As the Bouchayers became grands bourgeois, however, leisure, largesse, and individual prowess gradually displaced work, frugality, and family ties as core values. Without imaginative entrepreneurship after 1930, the firm lost momentum and ...

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Overview

The son of a village nail maker, Joseph Bouchayer forged a new identity in Grenoble and left as his legacy a thriving metalworking firm--Bouchayer et Viallet. His sons made this enterprise the dominant French producer of pipelines for the hydroelectric industry before 1914. As the Bouchayers became grands bourgeois, however, leisure, largesse, and individual prowess gradually displaced work, frugality, and family ties as core values. Without imaginative entrepreneurship after 1930, the firm lost momentum and finally terminated its century-old manufacturing operations in 1970.

In The Bouchayers of Grenoble and French Industrial Enterprise, 1850-1970, historian Robert J. Smith explores a classic trajectory reminiscent of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. Drawing on family papers and business records spanning four generations, this narrative of the ascent of the Bouchayers and the eventual decline of their firm illuminates the complex relationship between family and class in the formation of modern industrial economies. Because France remained an essentially rural society until the twentieth century, its industrial development depended heavily on peasants and artisans who entered the middle class by founding family firms. An elusive thread in French history, the rise and fall of such firms reveals what was at stake for individuals, families, and enterprise in the transition to modernity.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert Forster
This is an excellent piece of historical work. It successfully combines family and economic history to demonstrate the importance of entrepreneurial decision-making and the crucial role of cultural factors in shaping these decisions. The book is well-written and based on personal letters that are insightful and evocative. Smith's knowledge of the historical, economic, and sociological literature on the subject of both family and economic history is prodigious. I am very impressed by the breadth of his research.
Booknews
Looking at the identity and career of the founder and three successive eldest sons of a family enterprise in the northern French Alps, Smith (history, State U. of New York-Brockport) shows how they spurred industrialization and rose in family status as their wealth grew, but also experienced changes in identity formation as the generations clicked by. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801866838
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/25/2001
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert J. Smith is professor emeritus of history at SUNY College at Brockport. He is the author of The Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Third Republic.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Building a Family Enterprise 1
2 The Brothers Bouchayer and the Electric Age 24
3 The Great War, Patriotism, and Profit 52
4 At the Crossroads: Adversity during the Postwar Years 78
5 A Cautious Patron: Surviving the Great Depression 96
6 The Vichy Years: Reluctant Collaboration 117
7 A New Generation: Modernizing the Firm 132
8 The Decline and Fall of an Industrial Dynasty 157
Conclusion 175
Notes 179
Bibliography 225
Index 241
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